By Shawn McMullen
Most of us have made poor financial decisions at some point in our lives. Many are currently wrestling with financial concerns. And probably every one of us knows someone—a close friend, a family member, a coworker—who is engulfed in debt.
One recent study revealed that nearly three out of four Americans live paycheck to paycheck, running out of money before the end of the month. And I doubt you’d be surprised to learn that more than one-third of all marital problems in the U.S. are related to finances.
A 2012 report on the website statisticbrain.com (based on information from the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Internal Revenue Service) provides the following statistics.
• The average American family has less than $4,000 in savings.
• 40 percent of working Americans are not saving for retirement.
• 25 percent of American families have no savings at all.
• The average household debt of Americans is $117, 951.
• The average American household annual income is $43,000.
• The average credit card debt among Americans is $2,200.
Is there hope for America’s widespread money problems? Absolutely. It’s found in the Bible. Financial advisor Dave Ramsey notes that the Bible contains more than 800 Scriptures dealing with money and our use of it. God must be concerned about money—and the way we manage it—to devote that much attention to it.
Jesus said in Luke 16:11, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” This seems to imply that God uses money to test our management and stewardship skills before he entrusts us with more serious responsibilities.
The Bible offers a great deal of guidance in the area of money management. Here are a few examples.
Proverbs 13:22 (NIV, 1984) says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children,” suggesting that God wants us to plan ahead and provide for future generations. Proverbs 21:20 notes, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” This encourages us to use our resources wisely and to set some back for safekeeping.
Proverbs 22:7 warns us about what happens when we take on obligations we can’t repay: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Jesus said in Luke 14:28, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” In addition to his teaching about discipleship, could Jesus’ words also imply that it’s better to save up and pay for the things we buy? And let’s not forget what the Lord said in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Even when we’re careless with our finances, I doubt we think about serving money. But when we fail to depend on God to supply our needs and carelessly assume financial obligations we can’t repay, we may find ourselves in just such a position—so controlled by our financial obligations that God’s will takes second place.
Who are you serving?